After just about catching up on the sleep lost over the weekend watching another enthralling Major championship, it's time to turn our attention back to the European Tour and in particular the BMW International Open in Germany. We're counting down the weeks to the season's strokeplay 'main event' at Royal Lytham & St Annes now and with this event, the Irish Open next week, the French Open and Scottish Open in between times there's plenty of chances for us to boost our coffers before The Open arrives!
Having played the BMW International Open in Munich since its inception, the course moves to Cologne this year, in so condemning reams of course history and analysis to the wastepaper basket. Fortunately the new course isn't new at all, in fact it's the Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof which hosted the Mercedes-Benz Championship and Linde German Masters between 1998 and 2009 - to help you on your way we've added the stats from these events to our analysis this week which you can study via the links at the top of this article.
Enough of the preamble, who of the 150+ players in this week's line-up has the game and the form to tackle the par 72, 7289 yard Jack Nicklaus design? The flat, exposed setup is by no means a pushover given the thickness of the rough and tight landing areas and a score of around 13-under is typically in contention on Sunday afternoon given average conditions. Pre-event rain will have softened the course and greens a little which will potentially make the first day or two easier for scoring and with dry, placid conditions throughout it will be a pleasant change for those who've made their way back from San Francisco over the last day or two.
As with most Jack Nicklaus designs, the premium is weighted a little more towards strategy than just bombing it off the tee making this predominantly a second-shot course where good approaches are rewarded, however those approaches need to be from the fairway to find the scoring areas so strong tee-to-green play is in order. The speedy (by European standards) bent/poa greens won't be to everyone's taste and those who've performed well on similar surfaces should be favoured. My selections are as follows:
The Goose finished in a tie for 10th in San Francisco last week - his best Major result for 2 seasons - signalling that back problems which plagued his 2011 season are now under control and he's now ready to reassert himself in the World's top 50 having missed out on a place at Augusta earlier this year due to his reduced Ranking. A win here would put him on the verge of a position at golf's top table and returning to Germany where he's enjoyed significant success is likely to spur the South African on this week, despite the mental and physical fatigue of 4 days competition at the US Open.
Retief's results in this event over the last few years are more than encouraging - 6/2/13/3/3 in his last 5 starts - and the last 3 were in identical calendar positions following the US Open, albeit all at the previous venue. Good job then that the 43 year-old has a win, 2 more top 10s and 3 more top 25s from 8 starts at Gut Lärchenhof - these German course clearly play to his strengths. Goosen sits inside the top 25 for greens in regulation this season and is still one of the best putters out there on Tour, so it will be no surprise to see him regularly contending for these type of events while he's healthy. Goosen was trading at 26/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: MC
Sergio made the headlines last week, however for completely the wrong reasons after demolishing a TV microphone after his approach came up short at par 3 3rd on Friday. Petulance or Spanish passion I'll leave you to decide, however what's clear is that Garcia clearly cares about his game and performance and whilst it wasn't to be in San Francisco, this week's test is sure to be much more to his liking at a course where, like Goosen, he's already tasted victory early in his career. His top-40 finish at the Lake Course kept him out of the limelight and away from the exertions of being firmly in contention, and may well be a blessing in disguise if he plays to his potential here.
Garcia has previous in terms of victory the week immediately after a US Open (Buick Classic 2001), plus a number of wins have come as his next tournament after a Major/WGC so can clearly lift his game after the trials and tribulations of the big 4 events. For some players the sheer relief of playing an 'easier' week in terms of course setup and competition level can propel them to victory - that's a distinct possibility here for Sergio who has enjoyed some improving form following his 12th place at Augusta and some sublime ironplay in recent weeks has propelled him to 3rd on Tour for GIR. Garcia was trading at 11.5/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: T29
A third short-priced selection this week I'm afraid however it was impossible for me to strike the Englishman off of the shortlist now that swing changes appear to have bedded in properly and his form has taken a distinct leap forward. 6th at Celtic Manor despite his 1-shot penalty for slow play and a self-inflicted toe injury, then 2nd in Stockholm behind an unstoppable Lee Westwood, suggest a player who's ready to add a 5th European Tour title to his collection very soon. Due to his reduced OWGR status Fisher had the week off while my other 2 selections above battled it out in the States, so he'll arrive here fresh and ready to improve on his 3rd place finish on this course back in 2008. Fisher was trading at 18.5/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: T8
The Dutchman was flying at Celtic Manor after a sublime 3rd round 64 had left him a shot off the pace going into Sunday, however Luiten was unable to find the putts on the back 9 which would could have given the extra shot required to force a playoff with eventual winner Thongchai Jaidee and potentially secure him a second European Tour title. Nevertheless his game was in excellent form tee-to-green (4th for accuracy, 7th for GIR) and that's the kind of combination that could well produce the winner here this week. Luiten knows that his weakest area is his putting, however he consistently reserves his best performances for bent/poa surfaces - above all though it's his ball-striking that gets him the nod here as he looks to improve on last year's 3rd place finish in this event. Luiten was trading at 39/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: T38
This week's outsider was one of the surprise packages at Wentworth a few weeks back who, alongside Peter Lawrie, led the Tour's flagship event after day 1 and went on to secure an excellent top-10 finish and with it a significant cheque towards his European Tour playing privileges for 2013. He followed that up with a battling 11th place finish at Celtic Manor with another display of excellent ball-striking and will arrive here full of confidence in the knowledge that his game - which suits Gut Lärchenhof down to the ground - is in great nick as he continues his search for his maiden European Tour victory. The Scot currently sits 8th on Tour for Greens In Regulation which will set him in excellent stead here, plus his 8th place finish on this course on the one and only time he played (2009 Mercedes Benz) is also extremely encouraging, coming hot on the heels of his best finish in this event (4th) a matter of weeks beforehand. Drysdale was trading at 99/1 on Betfair at the time of writing - for more details on how trading works on golf read our Golf Trading article. RESULT: T44
Our tips, picks and predictions for the 2013 edition of this event will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!